Yes, you heard it correctly. He is right.
The problem with the idea of "leaving before the job is done" is that "the job" -- whatever it is, and this administration has been particularly bad at articulating it -- can NEVER be done, so logically we can never leave. Iraq is decades away from anything like democracy, if democracy can be achieved there at all. William Patey, the departing British Ambassador to Iraq, said earlier this month that
"Leaving before the job would be done would send a message that America really is no longer engaged, nor cares about the form of governments in the Middle East," he said. "Leaving before the job was done would send a signal to our troops that the sacrifices they made were not worth it. Leaving before the job is done would be a disaster, and that's what we're saying."
"a low-intensity civil war and a de facto division of Iraq is probably more likely at this stage than a successful and substantial transition to a stable democracy."Yes, getting out of Iraq now or, at the very least, beginning to get out will be a disaster. However, staying in Iraq -- like going in needlessly in the first place -- is a disaster, and it is one that we can and must make the decision to allow, because it is the lesser and more just of the two disasters. It is a disaster that the Bush administration perpetrated. But it is also a disaster that we, the American people, allowed to take place by choosing to remain IN THE DARK rather than looking soberly at the significant evidence that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, had no ties to terrorism or to al Qa'ida, had no weapons of mass destruction, and was less a long-term strategic threat to the United States than it was a long-term economic threat to global, unregulated, laissez faire, "free-market" capitalism.
Hugo Chavez, take note.
The one piece of this mess with which I am most uncomfortable is the prospect for the future self-interests of the United States. Our misguided adventure in Iraq has made the world a much more dangerous place. Rather than being --EVER -- a "central front of the war on terror," Iraq under Saddam was anathema to Islamic fundamentalists, and very likely would have been on al Qa'ida's "hit list" of degenerate "westernized" nations. Iraq, particularly before the post-Gulf War sanctions, had a broad and prosperous middle class, good schools and good health care, subsidized by the Baatist government -- and paid for by nationalized oil profits. There was no desperation there. The United States was SAFER against terrorism when Saddam Hussein was in power in Iraq.
...Bush was adamant in arguing that the conflict is crucial to the broader battle against terrorism. "If you think it's bad now, imagine what Iraq would look like if the United States leaves before this government can defend itself and sustain itself," he said.
Asked whether that would be true if the United States had not invaded Iraq, Bush responded: "Imagine a world in which Saddam Hussein was there, stirring up even more trouble in a part of the world that had so much resentment and so much hatred that people came and killed 3,000 of our citizens."
And although Vice President Cheney repeatedly implied that an Iraqi intelligence agent met with a Sept. 11, 2001, hijacker five months before the attacks long after the story had been discredited, Bush said that "nobody has ever suggested that the attacks of September 11 were ordered by Iraq."
"I have suggested, however, that resentment and the lack of hope create the breeding ground for terrorists," he added.
Now, however, al Qa'ida has a foothold in Iraq. And it is growing. Islamic fundamentalist and Islamic resentment against the United States is, arguably, at an all-time high (at any rate, I cannot remember in my fifty-two years on Earth when it has been higher). We will be hit again. We will be the target of a terrorist attack in the future. There is no doubt about it. It is just a matter of time.
The mistake, though, is to think that we can stop the inevitable by remaining in Iraq. "Fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here" is wishful thinking. "We haven't been hit in five years" is wishful thinking. It was eight years between the first and second attacks on the World Trade Center. It will happen when we are not expecting it. It will happen at a moment of vulnerability, and at a point of vulnerability. When it happens, it will be because of what happened under this administration, to a very great extent.
What we need to do to rid the world of terrorism is to rid the world of the root causes of terrorism.